Clutter. Yes, everyone’s on about it. From ‘Stuffification’ to Mari Kondo-ing your house; it’s inescapable. That’s particularly true in my house as I can’t walk 2 feet without tripping over something. I learnt that to my cost last night when I ploughed into a plastic pirate ship abandoned in the kitchen by my 3 year old. I’d dislocated a toe last week so the screams could be heard in Cork.
Today, the Friday bunch met up, as we do weekly. We’re a group of mums who either met or re-kindled friendships through baby yoga. I just heard myself there, I’m not sure we could be any more middle-class. Anyway, at today’s get-together, one pal, (an eminent Professor at a local university) asked another in all seriousness: ‘With your husband being a neat-freak, does that really make house tidying easier?’ An animated discussion ensued. Are we actually having this conversation I asked myself? Well yes we were, of course, because it was me who started it. I’ve ‘stuff‘ on the brain.
You see, I have always been untidy, one might say preternaturally untidy. My mum claims it’s in our mother-line to be ‘through-other’ since some of her forebears were incapable of keeping an organised home. I’m inclined to believe her since throwing stuff away and attaining any semblance of order is fairly much impossible for me. Upon visiting us recently and peeking into our bedroom, The Wise Old Elf sighed, shook his head and muttered darkly: ‘It’s not who lives there, but what.’ I mean, we were always pretty bad, but this recent accumulation of ‘stuff’ has blown out of all proportion since moving into our first ‘proper’ home and producing off-spring.
In the 21st century, it would appear that people show their appreciation by buying things- it’s that simple. And they enjoy the heady thrill of making that purchase. I received tonnes of baby gifts given with the premise: ‘I know you said we shouldn’t, but, it was just so lovely’. And indeed it was, and my baby maybe wore it once before the said item was consigned to the back of a drawer and passed on.
Because that’s what I do, pass things on. I would rather show up at a new mum’s house with a freezer friendly tikka masala and a bottle of bubbly with which they can toast the new arrival’s health when they feel up to the task. A great friend in London used to send me parcels of hand-me-downs, which I loved, enabling me to feel a connection to her again, despite the miles. When I then photographed my daughters in the clothes she was thrilled and it re-inforces the bond with her child whom we’ve only met once.
Of course, I realise this depicts me as a total ingrate. Some gifts have been worn and been useful. But on the other hand, the really memorable presents have been vats of home-made chilli and vegetable soups: much appreciated when you’re too exhausted to speak, never mind exercise creativity in the kitchen. One pal bought me a 6 week session of baby-yoga classes; another arrived laden with nappies, shampoo and cotton buds. These are the memories I treasure, not the countless toys over which I trip and tidy away every evening in life.
An overwhelming tide of plastic sweeps our home; a mountain of soft toys, more Frozen paraphernalia than you could shake a stick at, despite my loud and unapologetic hatred of the movie. And that song, Dear God. If I have to endure one more advert with a precocious child warbling into a microphone I’ll scream. It seems that we’re money rich, time short, when what I really want is someone to take the messy little monsters for a couple of hours while I trot sanguinely to a pub and neck a glass of Prosecco.
When my husband and I met, I was the one looking smart, holding down a profession with a degree of responsibility. Some times I feel unrecognisable as a snot-covered mum who witters on about car-boots and NCT sales. These days, I stumble blindly between rooms, shifting mess from one place to another, occasionally kicking over a fresh pot of piss en route, (who am I trying to kid, sometimes it’s not even fresh).
So, advice to expectant mothers? Don’t bother saying ‘no presents’. Just hot-foot it to Next and M&S and return gifts in receipt of a gift card, and buy the ‘Dine-In offer’ and save yourself dreaming up tonight’s dinner. At kid’s birthdays the no-present rules again apply. Some will doubtless disregard your request, but others will concede and then you can delightfully turn up to theirs similarly empty-handed. You know your friends: they don’t want a houseful of shit either. Consider this next time a friend or colleague becomes a mum. Make her some brownies and a tagine. Trust me, she’ll thank you.